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all conception. To-day the Argentine counts 29,116,625
horned cattle, 67,211,754 sheep, 7,531,376 horses, 750,125
mules and asses, and 3,945,086 goats ; which is equivalent,
at the present time, to a capital of 1481 millions of paper
piastres, or £130,000,000. By referring to the figures for
1895, which give us 21,701,526 horned cattle and 4,446,859
horses, we may judge of the immense progress which the
Argentine has realised in a few years, thanks to the trans-
formation of 3f millions of acres of soil into magnificent
pastures of lucerne.

On the other hand we must, it is true, note a decrease of
7,167,808 head of sheep, which are gradually falling back
before the advance of agriculture and the increasing numbers
of cattle. This harmless animal contents itself with a poorer
soil, and does not fear the intemperance of the seasons ; also
sheep-raising is now giving place, in our central provinces,
to other more remunerative industries, and the sheep are
taking refuge in great quantities in the southern regions.*

If we consider these facts with a view to noting the
precise direction in which the Argentine is to-day evolving,
we shall observe a marked tendency towards the extension
of agriculture proper, and a check in the progress of stock-
raising, which appears — at least for the moment — to be
developing more slowly than of old.

This characteristic change is perceptible each year in the

* Patagonia, and even Tierra del Fuego, with its terrible winds and drench-
ing rain, is now being occupied by the sheep-rancher, to the destrnction of the
guanaco and the natives ; frost being rare save on the ranges, and the pasture
luxurious. — [Trans.]


statistics of foreign trade. The exportation of agricultural
products amounted, for the year 1907, to the value of 164
millions of piastres (gold), or £32,800,000 as against
£32,400,000 and £34,000,000 for the two preceding years.
As for the products of stock-raising, the value in 1907
amounted only to £24,800,000, while in the two preceding
years it was £24,800,000 and £28,200,000 ; and ten years ago
it exceeded by more than £10,000,000 the value of the agri-
cultural exports.

Many causes are contributing to this transformation of
a pastoral into an agricultural country ; their action is pro-
gressive, and they are profoundly modifying the aspect of
the land, by gradually substituting, for the monotonous
horizons of the ranchero's prairies, the variety of cultured

While the prices of cereals have always attained a remuner-
ative figure, those of the bestial, on the contrary, have now
and then suffered sensible depression ; and, what is still more
serious, the ranching industries have also suffered, as they
did in 1908, by a lack of demand for hides and wool, and
simultaneously for an insufficient outlet for meats.

The dried-meat f'saladeros) industry, which used to absorb
annually nearly two million beasts, has by now been almost
entirely removed in the direction of Uruguay, or the Brazilian
province of Rio Grande do Sul, and is little more than a
memory ; as this primitive and rudimentary method of pre-
paration had perforce to give way before the more hygienic
and progressive chilled and frozen meat trade. The chilled
beef industry, however, upon which such hopes were founded,
has not of late years made any conquest of new markets,
England being almost the Republic's only customer.

As for the exportation of cattle on the hoof, it is greatly
impeded in Europe by prohibitive measures, which diplomacy,
by means of commercial treaties, is endeavouring to remove.
Yet were the desired advantages obtained, the result would
be doubtful on account of the considerable rise in the price
of cattle and the high freights which are charged for the
transport of living stock. It therefore results that this parti-
cular species of exploitation is at an obvious disadvantage in
the face of the refrigerating trade.


If the raising of stock and its dependent industries have
not, in these last few years, realised a progress comparable
to that of agriculture, we must by no means conclude that
this department of production has ceased to be an element
of national prosperity. Quite on the contrary : thanks to
the efforts made to better affairs by happy selections in the
breed of animals, the value of live stock has increased in
surprising proportions, and the Argentine still retains its
rank as second to the United States as a stock-raising

What we have endeavoured to emphasise, as a new mani-
festation of the national activity during the last few years,
is that the development of the country has been in especial
along agricultural lines ; an incontestable proof of progress,
and an index of a higher degree of civilisation.

Agriculture, as compared to stock-raising, is, from the
economical point of view, a source of wealth having quite a
different bearing upon the general prosperity and welfare of
a nation. It is the fairy which little by little transforms the
vast plains of the Argentine pampas into a more animated
landscape, peopled by numerous homesteads, foci of colonisa-
tion, which then develop into villages, which in a score of
years may perhaps be important cities. Agriculture summons
the railroad, stimulates emigration, promotes the division of
the soil, creates the small proprietor ; it influences even the
manners and morals of the inhabitants, for it demands more
labour, more intelligence than ranching ; nimbler wits, more
method, greater foresight.

The comparison between the two great industries of the
Argentine is summed up in the following fact : a property
comprising 25,000 acres of pasture can be put into work-
ing order and managed by a staff of ten to twelve men.
For an estate of 1500 acres under culture, one may estimate
that forty to fifty persons, grouped in families, may easily live
upon the soil and prosper. We may perceive by this the
great superiority of agriculture from the point of vieM' of the
general interest of the country. It demands and supports a
denser population ; it permits the grouping of this population
in villages and cities, it creates, in proportion, with a smaller
capital, a great wealth of produce : in short, it contributes on


the one hand towards increasing the wealth of the country
by participating largely in its exports, and on the other it
increases its power of consumption, by absorbing a greater
number of imported products.

Thus the evolution of the Argentine towards agriculture
constitutes a real progress, and if the country continues to
follow the same path, its development will assuredly not be
arrested by lack of soil. The 35 to 37 millions of acres
already reclaimed, and at present under culture, represent at
the most a tenth of the total area of cultivable land, which is
estimated roughly at 375 millions of acres, of which at least
125 millions are perfectly adapted to the culture of cereals.
The four Provinces of Buenos Ayres, Santa Fe, Cordoba,
Entre Rios, and the Territory of Pampa Central alone
contain some 32i millions of land under the plough,
while there remains about 170 millions of acres of land
which is just as fertile, and which without manuring or
preparation would yield a splendid crop from the first year
of tilth.

This transformation into an agricultural country has
already borne fruit. The figures relating to external com-
merce, compared with the world's statistics of cereal produc-
tion, show the present position of the Argentine among the
great ex-porting nations.

It is the Argentine which to-day, after the United States,
occupies the second rank in the matter of cereal exports ;
and this is a significant event in the economic history of the
nations, to which the attention of Europe should be directed.
At the present moment the Argentine, with her 4 million
tons of corn available for exportation, is not as yet
mistress of the grain markets, but she represents, to those
countries whose production is insufficient, a notable reserve,
which has become indispensable since the United States,
Canada, and Russia seem to have reached their limit of

The year 1907-8 was for the Argentine, thanks to
the results of a good harvest, a period of exceptional
prosperity. The average yield of wheat was 18-7 cwt. per
hectare — 14 bushels per acre — and in the Province of Buenos
Ayres it amounted to over a ton per hectare — or 15 bushels per


acre — although the average was only 11 per acre in 1906-
1907, and 13 in 1905-1906.

As for the prices, they ruled higher than any the
country had so far known, even during its most prosperous
periods. Wheat had been selling at 6 or 7 piastres the 100
kilos — that is, approximately, at 3s. to 3s. 6d. per bushel — and
at that price agriculture still yielded a fair profit. In 1908,
as a result of the bad harvests in several European countries,
the sales rose to 6s. ; at which price the profits on the cost of
production amounted to 2-5 % or 30 %.

After this cursory glance at the present situation in the
Argentine, we must also express our views of the future.
Optimism is certainly permissible in the case of a country
which has advanced so far in so short a time, and where pros-
perity is founded on a diversity of products which can never
be affected by a universal crisis.

However, one well might wonder whether the Argentine
might not, in the Biblical phrase, know lean years following
the fat ; whether she is not destined to sufi'er the onset of
plagues, such as drought and the locust, which latter is to
her, as to Egypt in the time of the Israelites, a veritable
scourge. Certainly here we have one of the great risks to
which the country is exposed : a country wherein all depends
upon the harvest, the earth being the principal source of
wealth, and the mother of all industry. Yet this danger, so
real a few years ago, is greatly lessened to-day by the fact of
the distribution of cultivated lands and pastures over a far
greater area. A bad harvest could not compromise both
agriculture and stock-raising over a stretch of more than 15°
of latitude.

Yet the country is subject to a very real danger, but one of
another kind. From the very exuberance of development may
arise a crisis of growth ; for her prosperity depends not only
on plentiful harvests ; it may be influenced by other factors
on which it is far more difficult to pronounce.

The country must continue to require considerable sums
of capital for her agricultural necessities, for her stock-rais-
ing, for commerce, and for industries ; and it may be asked
whether the European markets, from which, in great measure,
her capital derives, can continue to afford her an ever-increas-


ing amount of assistance which will keep pace with her
development in all directions.

The Argentine is not so far self-sufficing. The soil is, to
be sure, a source of immense national wealth, but this wealth
is not in the form of a reserve to be drawn on ; it is, as a rule,
converted into real estate directly it is produced; unless,
indeed, it goes abroad. For a farmer who makes a profit,
say, of £8000 or £10,000, will immediately employ his capital
to acquire another holding or to start a different kind of
culture, instead of clearing off the debts which already
burden his property. He is contented with his position as a
borrower ; for if money, even on mortgage, costs him 8 to 9
per cent., he can, on the other hand, obtain a far higher
interest by sinking it in the purchase of land.

From all this it results that in the Argentine rural and
even urban property is largely hypothecated. It must be
understood that this capital is well guaranteed, as its security
rests not upon pure speculations but on the yield of the
property, which is far in excess of the charges ; however,
since the general tendency is not towards redemption, one
may wonder if, sooner or later, there may not be a lack of
equilibrium between the impulse given to the country and its
financial needs. The crisis which arose in the wool market
in 1908, the drop in the prices of quebracho timber, and the
restricted outlet for cattle on the hoof, and even for refriger-
ated meat, — all these partial misfortunes are salutary warn-
ings, and we must not lose sight of them, nor allow ourselves
to be hypnotised by the high prices of wheat, maize, or flax,
or the heavy yield of the lucerne pastures.

For our part, in considering the future of the Republic
no less than its present interests, we hope to see it enter upon
a period of consolidation, rather than continue indefinitely
the discussion of further progress. Before entering upon
another stage of development the country must, for a
while, mark time, in order to gain leisure to assume its own
liabilities, rather than continue incessantly to absorb new

But there is still a cloud in the serene skies of the
Republic; a cloud that might be the precursor of a truly
national catastrophe, if the measures necessary to avert it


were not taken in time. The peril arises neither from the
economic situation, which is excellent, denoting an ever-
increasing vitality, nor the relations of the Republic with
the neighbouring nations, which are conceived in a spirit
of peace and concord. Although a short-sighted diplomacy
has attempted to envelop the relations between the Argentine
and Brazil in an atmosphere of jealous distrust, there is no
fundamental cause which might trouble the friendly relations
of these two countries, which formerly fought side by side
on the field of battle for the redemption of a sister nation.
They have no conflicting economic interests which might
divide them, and are destined to afford a great example of
progress and of civilisation to the other States of South

The peril to which we refer is of a totally different
character: it is caused exclusively by the exaggerated
expenditure of the public administrations, and the dangerous
paths of armed peace upon which the country has entered ;
thus implanting, in young and free America, a ruinous system,
which is ruining the nations of the Old World, burdens them
with insufferable taxes, and diverts from production and
labour too large a proportion of citizens. In order to face
imaginary dangers, Congress and the Government have lately
decreed that a sum of £40,000,000 shall be expended upon

As for home politics, they form a domain which we do not
desire to enter, and on which the world of affairs bestows
little enough attention, so long as they do not compromise
the public peace. The Argentine, in fact, is still under a
system of personal power ; the Presidency of the Republic
is the focus about which all the political life of the country
gravitates. In default of a people as conscious of its rights
as of its duties, and possessed of the virtues necessary to
a course of perseverance in democratic practices, it is the
Government that manages the elections; and it is difficult to
say whether it does so because there is no public opinion, or
whether there is no public opinion because the Governments
usurp the functions of the electorate. From this point of
view there has been no change in the political morale of
the country ; the only progress to be noted is that tlie parties


resort less often than they used to violence as a solution of
their quarrels.

As for the administrative expenses, they are increasingr
with a rapidity only equalled by the growth of the fiscal
resources of this fortunate country. Proposals for public
works accumulate in the various Ministries, while waiting for
the funds necessary for their execution ; their total amounts
to-day to the respectable figure of nearly £40,000,000.

To sum up: from our re-examination of the Argentine
situation for 1909, we obtain an impression of great progress
and of actual prosperity, an impression confirmed by the
statistics of foreign trade, in which the entire activity of
the country is reflected. For the year 1907 the total of
imports and exports amounted to £116,000,000; for 1908
the total receipts and outgoings represented £183,000,000 :
with a commercial balance of nearly £24,000,000 in favour
of exports.

Among the other manifestations of national progress we
have still to take into account the development of the
network of railroads, of which 13,660 miles are in actual
working, representing a capital of £158,000,000, while 3259
miles are projected or in process of construction, representing
a capital of more than £25,000,000. These new lines have
been conceded by Congress either to companies already
existing, or to new companies which are able to offer all
desirable guarantees, so as to assure the prompt realisation
of the schemes accepted. The Government, on its own part,
has solicited and obtained from Congress the necessary
sanction for the execution of a vast plan for the colonisation
of the Southern Territories, which is based on the construction
of numerous railroads. This continuous extension of the
railway system has greatly favoured the valorisation of the
new Territories, and has contributed powerfully to the
movement of colonisation and emigration which is the in-
dispensable condition of a wider future.

To-day, then, all is for the best in the best, or at least the
richest, country in the world. But if science teaches us that
Nature takes no leaps — natura non facit saltus — history
also teaches us that nations in their progress must not
progress too rapidly. For this reason the Argentine


Republic, in especial, has need to-day to consolidate her
prosperity under a regime of foreign and domestic peace, of
prudence and economy, and to avoid speculation and the
abuse of credit, which have ended, before now, in inevitable


TWENTY years ago M. F. Latzina, Director of Statistics,
published in French a very able work on the Geographie
de la R^puhlique Argentine, of which he had issued the first
edition in Spanish, and I consented with pleasure to write
an Introduction to a book whose object — an object which it
fulfilled — was to familiarise European readers with a country
whose rapid development is one of the most remarkable
facts in the economic history of the nineteenth century.

"These results," I wrote, after having quoted certain
statistics of agriculture and commerce, " are assuredly very
satisfactory. The Argentines have the right to be proud of
them ; few countries in the world could show a like example
of progress ! "

I have no less pleasure in associating myself to-day with
this book, by Senor Albert B. Martinez (sometime Under-
Secretary of State, and at present Director-General of the
Statistical Department of the city of Buenos Ayres), and M.
Maurice Lewandowski, Sub-Director of the Comptoir National
d'Escompte of Paris. Their competence is incontestable,
and their work requires no recommendation, since it has
won the sanction of success, being now in its third French
edition, and having been " crowned " by the French Academy.
But the object which is aimed at by The Argentine in the
Nineteenth Century is the same as that of the Geographie de
Id Rdpuhlique Argentine, and the interest attaching to the
book is the same.

"In the competition of the new nations, created by
emigration from Europe," I said in 1890, "this Republic will
be enjoying a privileged situation^ because of its particular
advantages : the nature of its climate — a climate of the
temperate zone ; the vast extent of its territory ; the quality
of its soil ; the facility M'ith which railways can be built ;
its situation on the Atlantic coast, facing Europe, and rela-


tively near the Indian Ocean ; the powerful tide of emigra-
tion setting in towards it, and the rapid peopling of the
country, together with the wealth that results therefrom ; the
suitable character of its population, and the liberal spirit of
its political institutions. . . .

" The Argentine Republic, which occupies in the temperate
zone of South America a position analogous to that held by
the United States in the corresponding portion of North
America, may well dream, if not of equal power, at least of
a similar future."

This dream is in process of realisation : of this the proof
will be found in the chain of evidence which our authors put

It is the present condition of affairs and, above all, the
economic situation, which the authors of The Argentine in
the Twentieth Century have set out to represent. They
have not given us a panegyric — '^ nihil admirari,^' say they
— but a practical book ; one written by men of business and
affairs, founded upon direct observation, and hard-and-fas
figures, where statistics have provided them.

The Argentine is a young nation, which hitherto has
busied itself rather in work and production for the ameliora-
tion of its present condition, and in the preparation of its
morrow by creating capital, than in giving itself to the
historical study of its past. Nevertheless, history is the
web from which the spirit of a nation is woven. It is useful
to recall the principal historical periods, and particularly the
origins of the nation, for the better understanding of the
present period.

It was in 1508 that the Spaniard, Juan Diaz de Solis,
discovered the estuary of the Plata, the Mar dulce ; and in
1516 he returned, thinking, after the discovery of the South
Sea, by Nuuez de Balboa in 1513, that this might be the
strait, so sought by the navigators of the time, bj^ which that
sea might be reached, but on landing he was killed by the
arrows of the Charrua Indians. He had discovered no
strait, but a spot assuredly well suited for colonial settle-
ment. The first attempts were abortive : that of Sebastian
Cabot, who built the fort of the Sancti-Spiritu (1527), and


that of Diego Garcia. It was then that the discovery of
some ornaments of silver, worn by the people of the country,
gave the river its name ; known first as the Rio de Solis,
it was now called the Rio de la Plata. The Indians destroyed
the fort and killed the colonists.

Eight years later a wealthy private gentleman, an officer
of Charles V,, Don Pedro de Mendoza, undertook to establish
a settlement at his own cost, on the condition of being
appointed governor of all territories that might be found
as far as 200 leagues from the ocean; and in 1535 he sailed
with fourteen vessels and two thousand men. He laid the
first foundations of the colony of Buenos Ayres, and he
rebuilt the fort of the Sancti-Spiritu, while his lieutenant,
Ayolas, in 1536, founded the station of Asuncion, on the
Rio Paraguay. The post of Buenos Ayres was abandoned.
After the death of Mendoza and Ayolas the new colony was
governed by Martinez de Irala for a space of nearly twenty
years ; reinforced by fresh emigrants, it barely held its own
against the losses inflicted upon it by the Indians. Irala,
by a voyage of three years' duration, succeeded in putting
himself in touch with the Spaniards of Peru.

Conquerors coming from Chili across the Andes, the
Spaniards founded among others, despite the hostility of
the Indians, the following stations : Santiago del Estero
(1552), Mendoza (1560), Tucuman (1565), Cordoba (1573),
Salta (1582), and Jujuy (1592). These at first were little
more than camps entrenched. But Santiago del Estero was
erected into a bishopric, and so remained until 1700, in
which year the episcopal throne was transferred to Cordoba.
In the eastern regions, in 1573, Governor Juan de Garay
built Santa Fe, re-occupied Buenos Ayres, which was
christened, on the 11th of June 1580, Cuidad de la Trinidad
y Puerto de Santa Maria de Buenos Ayres (the City of the
Trinity and the Haven of Holy Mary of the Fair Winds),
and founded Corrientes in 1588.

Trade commenced. A first consignment of hides and
sugar was dispatched to Spain in 1551 ; but the merchants
of Seville protested, and as a result their privileges won the
day. It is a fact that the monstrous regulations which Spain
had imposed upon her colonies forced the Argentines, for


some considerable time to carry their exports across the
continent to Callao, whence they were carried by sea to
Panama ; there they were again transported by land across

Online LibraryAlberto B MartínezThe Argentine in the twentieth century [microform] → online text (page 2 of 33)